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Rene Bellwied | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

The Black Hole Come-On Line

Ok, we’re down until spring. This is for the standard winter shutdown plus fixing and understanding the helium leak. For somebody who has worked at the AGS and RHIC for the last two decades, this series of events is really no surprise. As was said before, these problems occur during a startup phase and are really not indicative of the quality of the overall project or the probability of success in the future. Next year’s long runs are still something to look forward to. But in the meantime we can shift our attention to other, similarly important, things. And because serious issues such as financial bailouts and presidential campaigns are on everybody’s mind, I thought about a more light-hearted topic for this week, which came to my mind during a gathering of physicists and non-physicists this weekend: Finding the right partner for life….

As we all know, it’s hard being a physicist. Let’s not kid ourselves, people often run away at parties when we start talking, they look puzzled, they don’t know how to respond, and quite frankly they don’t really care. That brings up the question: Can the Geek Squad ever score ?

Even if you unlock the mysteries of the creation of the universe, mostly the religious fanatics stay with you in order to prove you wrong, because God made the proton and not Mr. Higgs. So what’s a good physicist in search for a mate to do ? Well, lately I recognize a certain brashness in my younger colleagues by turning a bad thing into a good thing, a new approach which can be described as The Black Hole Come-on Line.

Here is how it works. In the middle of a rather benign conversation about the sub-prime mortgage crisis you start off by saying that you’re working on a project at the biggest atom smasher (or particle creator, although ‘smasher’ is always a winner) in the world (moderate interest ensues),  then you drop the possibility of creating a black hole (eyes widen, but still only slight interest), but then after a well timed pause you mention that it could potentially destroy the earth (unbridled attention and even slight admiration is a given at this point). You need to follow up with the obligatory disclaimer to put the person at ease: well, if we make a black hole that only one of the good kind, too small to break something but big enough for mankind to learn a lot. And there you have them hooked. You go off with them into Black Hole Wonderland, and if you don’t only know ‘Battlestar Galactica’ but also a little ‘Sex and The City’ you might even carry the conversation beyond the courtesy five minute mark.

Well, good luck Young Skywalker and God’s Speed !!


10 Responses to “The Black Hole Come-On Line”

  1. Bill R. says:

    I hope that electrical connector was one faulty unit and not a design flaw!

  2. Justin D-Z says:

    Some of my friends held a “just in case the world ends” party in anticipation of the big turn-on (yes, that was intentional). They are an interesting blend of old school sci-fi/fantasy dungeons and dragons playing nerds and socially adept hipster/scenesters. Actually, they probably will be abducted and studied now.

    I ended up having to explain the Higgs Boson a few times (I did this very poorly) to some cute, wide-eyed girls but as I’m happily married I got to do that purely from the standpoint of a nerd and not with any intent of collapsing that particular wave function.

    All of this will be moot when the credit crunch melts the outer continental shelf anyway.

  3. Steve says:

    It’s very true, I’ve noticed a distinct change in public perceptions.

    Before Sept. 10:
    “I’m a particle physicist”, says Steve.
    “Oh really. That’s very interesting. How about those Red Sox? Think they’ll do it this year?” says whoever is listening. if only for a moment longer

    After Sept 10.

    “I’m a particle physicist”, says Steve.

    but at least people are more interested.

  4. Matt says:

    Can you explain the reason for shutting down in the winter? I’ve read a couple popular news sites that mention it is being done to save on heating costs, but I find that hard to believe. Are the heating costs really that substantial when compared to the overall energy/building costs of the collider? It is underground, so that should be a pretty big moderator of temperature swings.

  5. Aren’t the Subprime mess and a black hole one and the same thing? Money seems to flow into the subprime mess never to be seen again, as does light in a black hole hey?

  6. Richard Mitnick says:

    Don’t forget that those of us “crunchers” attached to LHC@home are still banging out work units and delighted to be and feel part of the big show.


  7. riemann says:

    So, no mention of the Hawking Radiation or the Hierarchy Problem? Check! I wonder if the LHC could create a black hole that’d beam us to a universe in which the cultural selection pressures actually ‘favour’ the Geek Squad..

  8. Mariana says:

    Rene, you are a joy! :-)

  9. Darren says:

    When we are born we consume and grow, maybe just like a black hole?

  10. Jennifer says:

    In reply to Matt:

    It’s not the heating of the LHC that is the problem, it is the fact that everyone in Europe is cranking THEIR heat so as not to freeze their little buns off that makes power (for whatever you want to use it for) more expensive in the winter.

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